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Day 4 - Filostrato (Vanquished by Love) 
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Post Day 4 - Filostrato (Vanquished by Love)

Here begins the Fourth Day, wherein, under the rule of Filostrato, the discussion turns upon those whose love ended unhappily.

Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:55 pm
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Post Re: Day 4 - Filostrato (Vanquished by Love)
I have now read the first two stories of the fourth day, and both are great. I was somewhat down on the third day’s stuff, just because of an overabundance of illicit sex, but these new ones on the fourth day are now bringing my interest back up – or maybe I’m just becoming used to the illicit sex. I guess there’s a limit to the material that a writer can use in these stories, so the basic underlying themes will probably stay pretty much the same for this day, and for the days to come as well. We’ll see as they continue to unfold.

The first story, Tancredi and the Golden Chalice, highlights a few things we’ve already discussed in connection with the earlier stories, such as how older people tend to forget what it’s like to be young, and of course the ever-present sexcapades. It also includes a new theme – one we’ll probably see again as the stories continue – the tribulations that come from two people of different ‘stations’ in life falling in love with each other, thereby triggering angry reactions from the family with the higher station. Even though the chasm between the ‘nobility’ and the regular folks of today isn’t nearly as mammoth as it was in fourteenth century Italy, this problem continues in our times as well.

I really liked the second story, The Angel Gabriel, for two features in addition to the story itself. First, in the introduction to the story, Filistrato, who is king for the day, tells how he dies a thousand deaths in the course of every hour he lives, without being granted even the tiniest portion of bliss in return. This reminds me so much of a person I know very well in real life – a person who never even heard of The Decameron, and who seems to think she has more crosses to bear than any other individual in the history of the world – probably more than all the individuals combined – in her mind, at least.

Second, it takes some nasty shots at the people of Venice. Apparently the people of Florence didn’t think all that much of Venetians – sort of like Philadelphia vs Hattiesburg, Mississippi – or like New York City vs every other city in the USA. Just one example of this is the scoundrel who relocates from his small hometown to Venice to get a new start among people who don’t know him for the bum he really is. Boccaccio says that ‘Berto moved to Venice, where the scum of the earth can always find a welcome.” I don’t think that even New Yorkers are quite so derisive while sneering about places in the barren hinterland. The story is very clever in combining barbs against clerical hypocrisy and against illicit sex achieved through devious means, both of which are frequently-recurring themes in many of these stories.

Currently reading Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Recently completed The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman, Beaumarchais by Maurice Lever, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, My Turn at Bat by Ted Williams, Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Lost Horizon by James Hilton.

Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:56 am
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Post Re: Day 4 - Filostrato (Vanquished by Love)
I wondered why you didn't like the 3rd day very much (I was starting to wonder if maybe you had been cheated on). The stories of the 3rd day had a lot of sex and some of them were down right distasteful in that they contained elements of rape. The rules for that day's stories should have promised tales a little bit more spiritually uplifting than what we received. B. is supposed to take us from vile to virtuous as the stories progress so we should see an increased trend towards something more approaching the abstract idea of love than just love of the flesh or lust. Hopefully we'll see more noble ways of achieving 'happy endings'. ;)

How could the Introduction of the 4th day be any better? Here we once again are privy to hear the voice of B. himself. The writing has a graceful eloquence about it and remains quite playful despite the high level of mastery it displays. It never drops its guard as it fences with critics of B.'s own creation. Of course he could have let others see his work before he released it in its final version and heard what others had to say about it but it's assumed he's defending himself on what he thinks someone may say about his efforts. I wonder if I would have caught this had I not read the notes in the back of the book. I think, as wrapped up as I am in his tales and my propensity to believe what I read when it is written in such a style, I would have believed he was adequately defending himself by addressing real people and their very real views. If his very humorous, when considering it's contrived, defense isn't enough to put a smile on your face he will finish by reminding you that you are reading frivolous stories meant for ladies. He'll even call you a lady because, after all, only ladies should be reading these stories. lol. We all know that this is no frivolous piece of work but rather a masterpiece of narrative literature and it is definitely not intended for just such an audience.

And so, it is a masterpiece that he humbles as he humbles the reader by reminding him that he is a she. hahaha. The stories have great writing within them but the introduction to the 4th is awesome in my opinion. The writing is just magnificent. I could read it over and over. Whenever women are praised and written as reflections of divinity, you have my nod of approval.

This introduction also contains within it a story which would make the stories contained within the D. number 101. The notes say that in some versions that Dioneo's previous story about putting the devil back in hell was replaced by this one. This is another nature vs. nurture type story. The boy was totally brainwashed and sheltered so that he believed one thing but when he saw a lady.... he wanted one.... bad. Even when he was told they were evil, he didn't believe it. "But no sooner had he spoken than he realized that his wits were no match for nature."

We were all talking about how nature is such a strong force in this book. It's apparent here in the introduction as B. makes this point quite explicit. He says, "And in order to oppose the laws of nature one has to possess exceptional powers, which often turn out to have been used, not only in vain, but to the serious harm of those who employ them." B. considers these powers, if he were to actually have them, a curse and he would do away with them if he could.

"Moreover, ladies have caused me to compose a thousand lines of poetry in the course of my life, whereas the muses never caused me to write any at all." Ladies are a motivating force for a lot of what we do. If I wasn't able to get laid unless I surgically removed my nose - because girls thought that guys with chopped off noses were hot - I'd have done it a long time ago, it would be covered by insurance, and there would be countless commercials/jobs/styles ...etc. for it. Our whole society would be built around it and we'd just shrug our shoulders and grin when we'd consider what we do for 'love'.

And if anyone is curious why DWill likes poetry, B. explains it: "The pursuit of poetry has helped many a man to live to a ripe old age,..." DWill is obviously trying to live forever.

Sat Dec 04, 2010 2:36 pm
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Post Re: Day 4 - Filostrato (Vanquished by Love)
Again, it's good to have you and Dick Z. talking about the book. About the introduction, you're right, it's a bravura rhetorical performance. Can't you imagine old Giovanni thinking to himself, "How can I put my own stamp on this book of tales that I relate exactly as I heard them" (or so he says he does). So he continues to play with this idea of himself as impresario to the lovely ladies, and as you say, he makes up a fake dispute based on probably non-existent bad reviews of his first few dozen stories. He defends himself against what he imagines would be said by critics. I don't have any idea whether critics did attack him for pandering to a bunch of women.

The fact that he does that is surprising to me. You might think that, being a male, he'd impart the wisdom of his experience to other males. But he has totally ignored the three men in the company so far. I have to ask, is B. a Medieval feminist? He says that what he's doing is modeled after Dante's and other previous writers' adoration of women, but in those cases wasn't it a single woman worshiped, not the entire gender? Possibly, anyway. I love his defense against the (again, apparently made-up) charges of his being a dirty old man and too crisp around the edges to have amorous desires: "that although the leek's head is white, it has a green tale."

B. might be a slightly subversive writer in this matter of women, in the sense that he may go against the attitudes of his day, even while sometimes paying lip service to them. I recall another example, in the ninth story of the Third day, in which the countess says that being born into nobility no longer has any relation to ability or good morals. Once it did, she says, but our times have degraded that former true nobility. This statement itself may have been in some way conventional--there's no way for me to know--but B. does probably endorse that view. It must have been growing clearer during B.'s day, as a merchant middle class grew up, that status of birth had absolutely no bearing on intelligence or goodness.

You say you admire the writing in the introduction. Think of what you'd say if you could read the Italian! I keep in mind that I'm not reading Boccaccio, but G. H. McWilliam's Boccaccio. For comparison, think of an Italian reading Huckleberry Finn, in Italian. That could be weird. What idiom in Italian could the translator use to duplicate the speech of Huck, Jim, and the others?

Comacho, this matter of the purity vs. worldliness of the ladies isn't clear to me. Neifile does seem to joust in a sexual way with Filostrato on p. 280, but elsewhere the indications are that the ladies could be virginal. McWilliams in a note (804) mentions "Their unswerving propriety, to which B. refers at regular intervals." Pampinea gives as a reason to flee the city avoiding falling into the lewdness that the live-for-today mentality of the plague has caused. The ladies also are all well past the traditional age of marriage, yet certainly don't want for looks, so what is their deal? McWilliams talks about the symbolic aspects of the ladies, how they represent 7 virtues, and in that sense perhaps they're not really of the normal world at all. They inhabit an unreal, idealized world as well, not really natural but somewhat artificial like a very formal garden.

It's interesting that B. defends his loving care toward the woman as natural, a force that should not be denied. Yet within the framework that he has set up, the natural doesn't prevail, but rather the idealized does. The men and women have completely chaste relations, and I wouldn't expect that to change as we go along.

Damn, managed again to avoid saying anything about the stories themselves. Later for that, I hope.
Oh, but about your comment on my longevity. I never thought about that, arriving at my ripe old age by virtue of reading poets. I think it's probably rather the bicycle and judicious drinking. The poems we've seen so far are in the mode of the traditional lover's lament, and are meant to match the moods of the reciter. Poetry has been called the form of literature that can't be translated, so I would assume they are only very roughly and unsuccessfully conveying the qualities of B.'s compositions.

Last edited by DWill on Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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DickZ, President Camacho
Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:57 am
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Post Re: Day 4 - Filostrato (Vanquished by Love)
I don't think that B. has a very positive image of women as a group when compared to men. I feel his views are along the lines of judging each individual by their actions and not based on their gender, wealth, or title. I tend to think, though, that he sees the masses as we probably have been taught to see them - as fickle, emotional, dumb, and dangerous. When he singles out women as a group, rather than individually, his views of them are sober and not pro feminist or anti-feminist when considering my previous sentence. He definitely isn't convinced they're, collectively, the smarter or more level headed of the two genders, though. But that's nothing new, right? A person kept inside and out of school and business is going to be a moron about affairs which require learning.

The 1st story in this day is one of the most memorable stories in the book. It's probably the most macabre. It's very serious and presents some characters with deep psychological problems. In other stories, our heroines kill for their love, and in other stories the characters have a more realistic view of just how far they're willing to go for love - they vow that they will die for love but when confronted with a task they think... is it worth it? In this story we see a father who denies nature by keeping a sexually charged and of age daughter a lover. He's failed to Marry her off, too. He's got a time bomb. He's very jealous of her and his interest in her borders on incestuous. What is he really doing in her room? The whole affair is very awkward. Instead of taking the route of marrying her off to the young man -as we'll see a father do in a later story- he feels he can't because of the man's lack of wealth and noble breeding. It's convenient. It gives him a ready excuse to be upset and to punish his daughter and the young man but the way he does it strikes the reader as a revenge fit for a cuckolded husband, not a father. He cuts the young man's heart out and gives it to his daughter. He really wants to psychologically traumatize her. His plan back fires somewhat but, does it? Maybe if he can't have her, no one can...

There is a lot of macabre in the stories of this day but there is really only two other stories which match the gore and mentally disturbed psychology of the characters as this one.

"He who is wicked and held to be good, can cheat because no one imagines he would." This not only illustrates the extraordinary perverse hypocrisy of the church but also shows B.'s keen insight into human affairs. This book isn't called the Human Comedy for no reason.

I'm surprised Z didn't mention that this story didn't remind him of Toilers of the Sea. I think he's stopped reading.

"Friar Alberto had sensed immediately that she was something of a half-wit, and realizing that she was ripe for the picking, he fell passionately in love with her there and then." Love as a force and not as the definition we're used to. Love... what is love? Is this your idea of love?

(on Anger) "that brings us into danger more swiftly than any other is the vice of anger. -Observed to produce its most catastrophic effects among the ladies, for they catch fire more easily, their anger burns more fiercely, and they are carried away by it without offering more than a token of resistance." An emotional person is more prone to this kind of behavior than a staid/prudent person. It's not gender specific it just depends on what makes a person 'lose it'. It is curious, though, that Anger can be applied to either gender as being the more culpable yet B. chooses women as any man in love with them should (although, he could and probably does do it for the purpose of the story). A woman 'is' love and love is a powerfully passionate force that has no respect for reason - it is pure emotion. The act of falling in love is more masculine. A man can be affected by love to do incredible things but a woman is usually the source. All this is my opinion.

"we are invariably more delicate than they are, as well as being much more capricious." B. putting words into a gender's mouth.
I don't think too many men would have agreed to Rastignone's terms.

"Restagnone, who had once been very much in love with Ninetta, was able to posses her when even he liked without fear of discovery, he began to have second thoughts about her, with the result that his love began to wane."
This is another keen insight into human psychology. B. even gives a reason. "withholding of a desired object sharpens the appetite." Humans suffer from this every day.
- In this story we see love transformed into hatred which happens more than once in the D.

4th: Elissa

"...there are many who believe that Love looses his arrows only when kindled by the eyes and who regard with contempt anyone who maintains that a person may fall in love on the strength of verbal report." Here we have someone falling in love with a 'verbal report' of a girl.

The crew kills the King's daughter. Wow. ...ok.
Then the other King kills his only Grandson to save his reputation. hmmm...

5th Filomena

This is the direct source for Keat's Isabella
"the had failed to bestow her in marriage, despite the fact that she was uncommonly gracious and beautiful." This spells trouble continually in the D. Girls need action! lol

This story contains an apparition! I believe this is a first.
This is another story which has a lot of macabre and mentally disturbed behavior in it. She severs the head from the body, takes it to her room and cries over it - planting a thousand kisses on it. Then she puts the head in a pot and covers it with soil and planted Basil in it. She watered it with her tears.

Poor girl cries her self to death. I think this is necessary to show what a strong force love is that it can completely blast away a person's reason - for living... It's so strong it can easily break a person without flinching. It's an invisible force only felt by those involved which others can't comprehend because it's different for different people. Some people don't have the option of willingly investing in love - for some love just decides to take.

6th Panfilo
Here we see a female initiating the liaison. They are secretly married so her honor is never in question - not that it would be in today's society. That doesn't exist anymore. There are more supernatural things happening in this story with dreams and monsters which foretell the man's death.
"Asphyxia, caused by the bursting of an abscess located in the region of the heart." His dream where the dog is eating into his side to get at his heart that woke him up was really this medical condition. The pain was real and his body was trying to warn him but it only managed to enter his dreams. The weird part is that it entered the girl's dreams as well. So we can assume that they were connected in a strong way.

She handles the affair of his death very clumsily in my opinion. I wrote in my notes that I found this story to be a dud.

7th Emilia

From notes: Simona and her lover, Pasquino, have special significance as the 1st working class hero and heroine in the history of European tragic literature. Both are engaged in the manufacture of woollens. The staple industry of medieval Florence and the source of much of its wealth.
I didn't find this story that good.

8th Neifile
"to my way of thinking there are those who imagine that they know more than others when in fact they know less, and hence they presume to set up this wisdom of theirs against not only the counsels of their fellow men, but also the laws of nature. No good has ever come of their presumption, and from time to time it has done an enormous amount of harm. Now, there is nothing in the whole of nature that is less susceptible to advice or interference than Love, whose qualities are such that it is far more likely to burn itself out of its own free will than be quenched by deliberate pressure."

"I am married, and therefore it is no longer proper for me to care for any other man but my husband." Wow we have a virtuous woman. They are so rare.

This story gets ridiculous really fast. Totally unbelievable and misses the mark.

9th Filostrato
Tears out his best friends heart after murdering him. Has the cook prepare a dish of it - and allows his wife to eat it. Then she walks right out of a window!! Someone save me from these stories!!! hahaha. Ridiculous. Another gory, macabre tale here. Walks out of a window!!!! lmao. Really? A window? lol.

10th Dioneo
husband fights nature and loses. Wife fights Ruggieri's nature.

Decameron Giovanni Boccaccio book review

Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:30 pm
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